Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips'

Senate Republicans confirmed a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee on Tuesday even though neither home-state senator returned a "blue slip" for the judge nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey: Barr is 'sliming his own department' GOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report MORE
 
Senators voted 53-46 on Eric Miller's nomination, making him the 31st appeals judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017. 
 
Miller is the first circuit court nominee to be confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator, with neither Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills Work on surprise medical bills goes into overdrive MORE (D-Wash.) nor Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDon't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy MORE (D-Wash.) returning the sheet of paper that indicates if they support him. 
 
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Murray warned minutes ahead of the vote that Miller's nomination was putting the Senate on a "very dangerous path." 
 
"Republican leaders are now barreling towards a confirmation vote on a 9th Circuit nominee, a flash point that, if it succeeds, will mark a massive departure from the long-standing bipartisan process that has been in place for generations," Murray said from the Senate floor.
 
Cantwell added that the "confirmation process has, I believe, gone against long-standing Senate traditions, norms and the role of advise and consent to his nomination."   
 
It's the latest escalation of a years-long fight over the blue slip, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to defang the minority by moving nominations without support from home-state senators. 

The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

But it's emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.

Several circuit nominees were confirmed last year despite not receiving a blue slip from one of the home-state senators. 
 
Republicans also brought 9th Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds to the floor despite not receiving a blue slip from either Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Dems request investigation of lobbyist-turned-EPA employee who met with former boss This week: House to vote on bill to ban LGBTQ discrimination MORE or Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse to vote on retirement bill next week Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots MORE, but his nomination was withdrawn after Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Spicer defends Trump's White House correspondents dinner boycott GOP senators dismiss Booker reparations proposal MORE (R-S.C.) indicated that he wouldn't support him. 
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted out Miller's nomination along party lines earlier this month. 
 
Democrats were infuriated when Republicans held a hearing for Miller during the October recess last year when most lawmakers were out of town.
 
GOP aides argued that Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Graham warns of 5G security threat from China MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, had agreed to the dates, but Democrats say they did not agree to move forward if the Senate was not in session.
 
 
 
"He will make decisions on our nation's most important issues and will have the power to change Americans' lives," said Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Schumer, author discussed possible Kansas Senate run: report Life in the minority at the FCC MORE (D-Nev.). "Yet this Republican leadership believes a five-minute hearing is enough for a circuit court nominee who doesn't have the support of his own home-state senators."
 
Republicans have dismissed Democratic complaints, noting that Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidLobbying World Mitch McConnell is not invincible Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (D-Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominations in 2013, ensuring an appeals judge could be confirmed by a simple majority.
 
 
"All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, 'extraordinarily well-qualified' to serve as a federal judge," he said. "I would urge each of my colleagues to join me in voting for this fine nominee soon." 
 
Grassley also sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell late last year saying they had not returned their blue slips but also not given any "substantive reasons for your opposition."
 
"My preliminary conclusion is that the White House staff attempted to engage in meaningful consultation with you but that their engagement was not reciprocated," Grassley wrote in the letter. "I believe the White House engaged in meaningful consultation with you regarding the Ninth Circuit vacancy in Washington."